WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A new pole farm at Wichita Area Technical College will help electrical power technology students practice their craft. The training site features a collection of electrical poles of various heights.
It’s a partnership between the technical college, Westar Energy, Pratt Community College and USD 259. Pratt already has a pole farm and a lineman training program, so the technical college wanted to bring one to Wichita.
“Wichita, as you know, is the largest metropolitan area in the state of Kansas,” said WATC campus director Jennifer Seymour. “It’s also the largest need for lineman from Westar Energy, so it made sense to bring this program here to the metropolitan area.”
The training site is open to technical school students earning their certifications. It will also be used to introduce high school juniors and seniors to opportunities in energy.
Students in the lineman program will do their usual class work inside a classroom. Then once they learn about safety, they’ll climb to new heights out on the training field.
Seymour said it’s important to give students hands-on experience.
“When you go to the workforce and you’re actually out there for the first time, it’s not a completely foreign concept to you,” she said. “You’ve had your hands dirty. You’ve been working with it. You know what’s expected of you. It’s also a whole lot more engaging for our students.”
Westar Energy said employees for technical jobs are not only in high demand in Kansas — but across the country. This week, Westar crews from Wichita headed to Texas to assist with repairs after Hurricane Harvey.
It’s no secret that linemen face awful conditions on the job — they’re out during ice storms, blizzards and floods. They also work around high voltages, both during the daytime and nighttime.
Seymour said it’s a job not everyone wants to do, adding that a labor shortage can have a trickle-down effect.
She recalled the last time Kansas had a large-scale power outage, and said it took a while for everybody to have power again.
“If we have a labor shortage, it’s just going to take even longer,” said Seymour. “That doesn’t only affect our personal lives, that affects our businesses too. If we’re not up and running and providing the services that everyone in the Wichita area needs, that just starts to be a larger impact.”
She hopes more people consider technical degrees to fill that high demand, saying the new pole farm will help students leave prepared to enter the workforce.
Today, KSN’s Amanda Aguilar took her reporter hat off to see what it takes to be an electrical lineman.